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Colored Glaze Crafts

Date:2014年3月10日 17:24

Colored glaze crafts, also known as glassware, is art crafts made from low-melting-point glasses. Colored glaze, in different versions, was called li, liu li, fei li, bi liu li, and liu li (the Chinese characters are different from the previous liu li), etc. in ancient times. According to the record of Translation Thesaurus and History of Former Han Dynasty, liu li originated from Sanskrit and was called bi liu li in Han Dynasty, which as a name of gem, gained the reputation for it was cyan, crystal clear with brightness, and glazed with complicated surfaces. Back then, it was mainly produced in the Qin Empire (which is how Chinese called the Ancient Roman Empire in old times) and Bin (which refers to Kashmir region). However, according to Book of Wei, li, also called po li and bo, is colored transparent glass smelted from ores. Nowadays, colored glaze is a general term for traditional Chinese glass so as to distinguish from the modern glass imported from western countries. Zibo, Shandong Province and Beijing are two traditional areas of producing colored glaze crafts in China.

As Xi’an unearthed jade-green colored glaze beads from the Western Zhou Dynasty, the history and development of Chinese colored glaze is remote and far-reaching. During the period of Wei, Jin, and Southern and Northern Dynasties, when Buddhism prevailed, colored glaze was used for manufacturing bowls, wine vessels, ink stone cartridges, screens and ornaments for a large number of Buddha statues. In Sui and Tang Dynasties, with wide range of varieties and applications, colored glaze was not only used for bowls, vases and plates, but also used for the decoration of doors, windows and screens. In late Tang Dynasty, women preferred to wear colored glaze hairpin (adornment on the chignon) and chuan (bracelet), which was still popular during those years under the reign title of Shaoxi (from 1190 to 1194). Boshan, Shandong Province, unearthed the furnace site producing colored glaze of Yinzi City in the late Yuan Dynasty. The handicraft workshop of royal court was also set up with terrine and jade bureau in Yuan Dynasty to produce colored glaze imitating jade, so the furnace site might be in Dadu (the capital of Yuan Dynasty, which is today’s Beijing). In Ming Dynasty, imperial eunuch established colored glaze workshop in Yanshen Town, Boshan to manufacture cyan curtains (which are curtains made by strings of colored glaze beads). And the colored glaze in black, white, red, light yellow and dark green, etc. from Kunming and Yongchang, Yunnan Province were pretty famous as well, with the Go pieces as the main products. During the reign of Kangxi, and emperor of China (1662~1722), the royal court set up glass factory subordinated to the workshop of Hall of Mental Cultivation of Internal Affairs Department, producing cups, bowls, vases, plates and snuff bottles, etc. And the raw materials and craftsmen all came from places like Boshan and Guangzhou. Colored glaze had over ten colors, including glass (transparent), pearl (milk white), creamy (suet color), snowy white, lotus root color, red, blue, purple, yellow, green and gold, etc, and reached as many as more than 20 colors during the reign of Qianlong (1736~1795).

 It is introduced that the melting point is only around 800℃ as the raw material for producing colored glaze adopts the crystal glass which contains 24% lead. The silicon dioxide, under this circumstance, can flow freely like maltose and form into crafts with various kinds of shapes after cooling down. The overall dewaxing process has 47 steps totally and each of them may lead to all the previous efforts wasted because of any minor mistake or problem. For example, it has to be paid highly attention on how to ensure the perfectness of every single detail to let the mould be filled with colored glaze, like barb, circle, and right angle. As the thickness of each part of the colored glaze varies, the expansion coefficient differentiates accordingly. Thus, when cooling down, each part will tear with each other, which easily leads to cracks or even smashes. Therefore, generally, only 40-60% of the production turns out to be a success. And since the colored glaze, in the semi-liquid state, is quite unstable, there is no one product exactly the same as another one, with each one a “uniqueness”. Hence, a piece of perfect colored glaze work not only counts on the design and skill, but also depends on the luck.

Currently, the use of colored glaze may be divided into two categories. One is craftwork, mainly for various kinds of business gifts, also including the ornament market, the business gift market, and the tourist souvenir, construction materials and the collection markets it involves in gradually. Along with the improvement of techniques and skills for manufacturing colored glaze, the development of combining it with other materials and products will become increasingly broad and extensive. And the other is aimed at the engineering market of colored glaze, mainly the decoration and construction material fields.

Chinese colored glaze, as a perfect combination of ancient Chinese culture and modern art, with its glowing light, colors and changing magnificence, embodies the delicacy and connotation of Orientals and demonstrates the integration between minds with art. Therefore, we should be proud to inherit the traditional Chinese culture!

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